Friday, September 16, 2005

Muppets Wizard of Oz

muppets of oz
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

I have mixed feelings about this one. I laughed a lot -- especially at Toto, who in this production was played by a king prawn muppet named Pepe, who has one of those outrageous Latino accents popularized by Hank Azaria in "The Birdcage." If this character is offensive to Latinos, I wouldn't be a bit surprised. I hope they found it an endearing shout-out.

The casting is precious, especially Kermit as the Scarecrow. Miss Piggy is hilarious in the first scene as Glinda, smothering the munchkin (rats) to her bosom and singing out, "CUDDLES! CUDDLES, Munchiekins!"

Mother of PeaceBang always adored Piggy, and I am beginning to see why.

There's an overly-frightening, very dark number called "The Witch Is In the House" during which Miss Piggy tears around her lair as the Wicked Witch, and her minions (the flying monkeys in this version are a motorcycle gang -- a truly motley crew of muppets!) tear apart the Scarecrow and the Tin Thing (played by Gonzo). Yikes! Not for the littlest kiddies.

Even as I laughed at the many truly charming moments, I found it disappointing that the Dorothy character (played by winsome black pop tart, Ashanti) was sexed-up so much, wearing a bare midriff throughout (although to be fair, she had a gingham apron on over it) and then given a make-over into full super-slutty-fab Beyonce mode once she gets to Emerald City. We're talking glittery eyeshadow and major cleavage to go with the 4" high magical slippers.

I personally found it hilarious that the magic slippers were silver-encrusted Manolo Blahniks, but I have to guess that if I was the mother of a 12-year old, I would have probably been exasperated. When Ashanti says, "If the magic slippers are supposed to make a girl feel sexy and confident, then these are definitely magical!" I groaned. We can't just achieve wisdom through our journey now, we also have to feel "sexy and confident." This is Frank Baum by way of Helen Gurley Brown.

For those of us who hold the torch of adoration aloft for Miss Judy Garland, and who consider her Dorothy Gale a monumental achievement of beauty and honesty, Ashanti just can't begin to compete. It's not her fault that her Dorothy was written and directed to be a pouting Material Girl; she is obviously talented enough to have played it with more tenderness.

I'm disappointed that the writers failed to recognize that Dorothy's journey is not just individual but archetypal. She doesn't want to get out of Kanas in order to be Something, she wants to get out of Kansas in order to Be. All the focus on the "I gotta be a star" totally demolished the archetypal power of the story for me.


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